Bill Mason

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Bill Mason
William Clifford Mason

Died(1988-10-29)October 29, 1988
Occupation(s)Naturalist, author, artist,
filmmaker, and conservationist
AwardsBAFTA Best Specialised Film
1970 The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes
1977 Path of the Paddle: Doubles Basic ; Path of the Paddle: Doubles Whitewater ; Path of the Paddle: Solo Basic ; Path of the Paddle: Solo Whitewater

Bill Mason was a Canadian naturalist, author, artist, filmmaker, and conservationist, noted primarily for his popular canoeing books, films, and art as well as his documentaries on wolves. Mason was also known for including passages from Christian sermons in his films.[1] He was born in 1929 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and graduated from the University of Manitoba School of Art in 1951. He developed and refined canoeing strokes and river-running techniques, especially for complex whitewater situations. Mason canoed all of his adult life, ranging widely over the wilderness areas of Canada and the United States. Termed a "wilderness artist," Mason left a legacy that includes books, films, and artwork on canoeing and nature. His daughter Becky [2] and son Paul are also both canoeists and artists. Mason died of cancer in 1988.


Bill Mason in a canoe.

In his review of James Raffan's 1996 biography of Mason, Michael Peake refers to Mason as "the patron saint of canoeing." To many Canadian and American paddlers and canoeists growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, his series of instructional films were the introduction to technique and the canoeing experience. In many ways, Bill, Joyce, Paul, and Becky Mason were the "faces" of Canadian canoeing in the 1970s. Mason's good friend, filmmaker Blake James, also frequently appeared in his films.[3]

Although he used a variety of Chestnut models in his films, including the "Pal", his favourite boat was a red "Fort" Chestnut Prospector, a 16-foot canvas covered wood canoe that he claimed was the most versatile design ever manufactured, in spite of the popularity of more modern construction techniques and materials. After his death, this canoe was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, where it is on display. His wife, Joyce, and children, Paul and Becky, frequently travelled with him and contributed to his later books and films, and have continued his life work and environmentalism.


Mason in a canoe with overhead camera

Mason won several honours, including being featured on a Canadian postage stamp in 1998.[3] After his death, a warden at Nahanni National Park Reserve informally started calling the dramatic rock spire, in the midst of Virginia Falls, "Mason's Rock". This usage appears to have become widespread, although it has not yet been made official. His films can be viewed for free on the internet through the website of the National Film Board of Canada.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has memorialized Mason with a "72 acre outdoor classroom on the west side of the City of Ottawa which its primary focus to provide an opportunity to Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and non-OCDSB students to explore, experience, appreciate and learn about natural science and outdoor activities in an outdoor setting."[4]

Works by Bill Mason[edit]


  • Path of the Paddle ISBN 1-55209-328-X, on the technique of Canadian style canoeing
  • Song of the Paddle ISBN 1-55209-089-2, on wilderness canoe travel
  • Canoescapes - a compilation of text and his paintings



  • Buck, K. 2005. Bill Mason: Wilderness Artist From Heart to Hand. Rocky Mountain Books. ISBN 1-894765-60-5
  • Mason, P. The Thrill of the Paddle ISBN 1-55209-451-0
  • Raffan, J. 1996. Fire in the Bones, Bill Mason and the Canadian Canoeing Tradition. Toronto: Harper Collins


  1. ^ "An interview with Bill Mason" (PDF). Crux Magazine. 9 (4). Summer 1972. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-01.
  2. ^ "Production to stop on popular canoe material Royalex".
  3. ^ a b Ohayan, Albert. "About this playlist". Bill Mason: Beyond the wild, beyond the paddle. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
  4. ^ "Bill Mason Centre Programs". Retrieved 2019-10-09.

External links[edit]

Media related to Bill Mason at Wikimedia Commons